CMS succession plan
Tavenner’s confirmation prospects appear bright
Senate confirmation of the nominee to head the CMS is critical to the continued implementation of the healthcare reform law, and early signs indicate that Marilyn Tavenner is likely to get it. Tavenner, formerly the CMS’ second-incommand, took the helm at the agency Dec. 2 when Dr. Donald Berwick resigned his post. She is much less well known than Berwick, a longtime advocate of overhauling the U.S. healthcare system who drew Republican opposition over his praise of the British socialized healthcare system. The opposition was significant enough that Sen. Max Baucus (DMont.), chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, which has jurisdiction over the nomination of the CMS administrator, declined even to hold a hearing on Berwick.
So far, Baucus has issued no public positions on Tavenner, and his staff said any hearing will await the arrival of her background documents from the White House.
But some of her supporters see indications that she may face significantly less Republican opposition because of her lower-key personal style.
For instance, Sen. Tom Carper (D-del.), a member of the Finance Committee, said in an interview with Modern Healthcare that he was encouraged by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s (R-VA.) recent comments to the Associated Press supporting her confirmation. “I might be wrong here, but I feel like in the last couple of months, we’re less gridlocked here and less partisan,” Carper said.
Tavenner’s nomination has generally drawn either a muted or a wait-and-see response from Senate Republicans, including Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-utah), the ranking member of the panel with jurisdiction over her nomination.
“Any nominee to a federal agency with this much power and authority over the lives of millions of Americans must be carefully scrutinized,” Hatch said in a written statement. “Republicans on the Finance Committee look forward to examining her record and gaining an understanding of her views of Medicare, Medicaid and the president’s health law.”
Chip Kahn, president and CEO of the Federation of American Hospitals, said the lack of immediate opposition from Republicans and their desire for hearings are good signs that Tavenner is not a lightning rod for another partisan fight. Kahn, who has known Tavenner for 10 years, said her Capitol Hill interactions with Republicans will play to her deft personal touch.
“One thing that’s clear is that she knows how to work across the aisle,” Kahn said, which he said was displayed in her former role as Virginia’s secretary of health and human resources under former Gov. Tim Kaine. “She did that when she worked in the state of Virginia, and to